Not a Member? Get access to HR news and resources that you can trust.
Standing desks and other innovative workstations can help counterbalance the negative health effects of sitting.
Is your employee handbook ready for the New Year? With SHRM’s Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
Get the HR education you need without travel expenses or time out of the office.
Elevate Your Talent Strategy. Join us in Chicago, IL – April 24-26, 2017.
The easiest way to recognize passive-aggressive employees is by their lack of assertiveness and directness with supervisors. They fail to ask questions about what is expected of them and may become anxious under pressure.
Do any of your employees have these passive-aggressive characteristics?
Passive aggression is a deliberate and masked way of expressing hidden anger. In the workplace, passive-aggressive behavior can manifest itself in one or more of the following ways:
Temporary compliance. The passive-aggressive employee often feels underappreciated and expresses his underlying anger through temporary compliance. Though he verbally agrees to perform a task, he delays completion by procrastinating, forgetting deadlines, misplacing documents or arriving late. For the passive-aggressive worker who feels under-acknowledged, temporary compliance is satisfying.
Intentional inefficiency. The passive-aggressive worker finds it more important to express covert hostility than to maintain an appearance of professional competence. She uses intentional inefficiency to complete work in a purposefully unacceptable way.
To protect against saboteurs, look out for employees whose work is consistently at or below minimum standards, who insist “no one told me,” and who personalize confrontations by authorities, playing up their roles as victims.
Letting a problem escalate. Teamwork and communication are key to productivity. When a passive-aggressive employee withholds information or deliberately fails to stop a glitch from turning into an irreversible gaffe, operations can halt. Misuse of sick days may help identify a passive-aggressive employee. Sabotage is the name of the game for the passive-aggressive employee who justifies her crimes of omission by saying, “I didn’t do anything.”
Hidden but conscious revenge. In contrast to the inaction that marks the previous tactic, some employees use covert actions to get revenge on supervisors. The passive-aggressive employee is aware that the person he is angry with has enough power to make his life miserable, so he decides it is not safe to confront him directly. Whether by spreading gossip that maligns the boss’s reputation or misplacing a document, the passive-aggressive employee finds justification in secret revenge.
By the nature of their covert acts, passive-aggressive employees are skilled at evading the long arm of workplace law. Unchecked, a compliant rule breaker can have a major effect on productivity and morale. When managers understand the signs and recognize patterns, they can protect themselves and other employees from being unwitting victims of this office crime.
The author is a licensed social worker and co-author of The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive-Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd edition (Pro-Ed, 2008). She can be reached at www.passiveaggressivediaries.com.
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Your session has expired. Please log in again before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
Choose from dozens of free webcasts on the most timely HR topics.
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 3,200 companies